Osteoarthritis, Running, and Physical Therapy

So, my left knee has a history!

I remember being in high school and dreading block days (days when each classes were an hour and half) because that meant I had to sit the whole time with my knees bent (little did I know I would eventually deal with this again during 3 hours long graduate classes).  I would oftentimes end up slouching because sitting with my knees bent would hurt after a while.  I continued to have this issue when traveling in cars, buses, and airplanes.   It was my “norm” so I didn’t question it much and when I mentioned it…no one really had any suggestions as to what I could do about it.

When I was about 20-21 I fell about 12-15 feet onto concrete and landed directly on both knees.  It took a year before my left knee felt 100% better.

I had another fall when I was about 24.  I was on a ladder changing a light bulb on the house when without any warning the ladder slid off the house.  I landed on both knees once again.  My left knee hit the driveway and right knee hit the grass.  It only took a few weeks for my knee to heal that time.

A year after that fall, I went on a hiking trip where I ended up hiking a 14Ker with a loose kneecap.  Each step hurt but it was so WORTH it.  After that trip I got my knees checked out and was told I could continue with whatever activities I wanted since it wouldn’t do that much more damage.  I was also told that it was likely due to doing sports especially gymnastics as a child.

For about a year, I finally got a break from my knee bothering me until about 6 months ago.  It started bothering me again whenever I would run.  My left knee would pop for days afterwards which would cause some pain.  My kneecap also felt out-of-place at times.

Last week I kept hearing something and kept thinking it sounded like firework.  Turns out it was my knee popping!

I was able to go to the orthopedic office today to get my knee checked out.  I wasn’t really told anything new but did have a few things confirmed.  Basically the cartilage around my kneecap is wearing down causing the bones to grind against each other.  There’s no treatment for it.  I can try to treat the symptoms with Ibuprofen, ice, cortisone shots, and physical therapy.  I opted out of the cortisone shots today and decided to try the Ibuprofen and physical therapy first.

I was told that I can continue to run but I may want to eventually find something to replace running if I can’t manage the symptoms well.

I did ask about long-term impacts that running might have if I continue to run.  Basically, I will still have the same outcome but running may cause the cartilage to wear down quicker.

He did say that at some point down the road I may want to consider a MRI but then he remembered I have a CI (kudos to him for knowing that I can’t have MRIs) so some additional studies might be needed down the road which could eventually lead to surgery.  It’ll depend on how well I can manage the symptoms.

Here are some X-rays for you science/medicine geeks!  If you look closely you can see where the bone/cartilage has worn down a bit on my left knee (left knee is on the right side in the close up photo).

I haven’t officially been diagnosed with Osteoarthritis per sec even thought that’s the reason for physical therapy referral. Apparently I’m really close to having arthritis in my left knee.

The vibe I got was that I can continue to do what I want as long as I can manage the symptoms. Also to keep in mind that what I do now could speed up the future outcome.

For now, I’m going to continue to walk/run while taking Ibuprofen (I’m not a fan of taking painkillers and will only take them when I absolutely have to) and icing my knee down as suggested but will cut down the number of days that I do cardio workouts.   Am also going to see if physical therapy makes any difference. The point of physical therapy will be to strengthen certain muscles to try to reduce the work that my knee has to do. Then I will decide what to do after that.

This is a common problem so if any of you have this….let me know how you’ve found ways to manage it!

1 thought on “Osteoarthritis, Running, and Physical Therapy

  1. How are you doing now? How’s your OA? I hope you have found the appropriate medication for yourself. I was diagnosed with OA too and it was really depressing. I am a runner and there were times that I wasn’t able to do my running activities, decrease my goals, and worst, stayed in bed. I didn’t want to be painkiller dependent so I tried medical science, specifically, stem cell therapy. My trekking coach advice me that his arthritis was cured through stem cell with the help of his orthopedic surgeon, Dr Purita. With the thought of him being completely healed made me schedule an appointment with the same doctor. He evaluated my knees’ joints and scheduled me for 5 weeks treatment. Few weeks after the treatment, my knees went back to normal and I am glad that up to this day, they never gave me problems. I am joint pain free and I try to increase my weekly running mileage. I hope this will inspire you and other osteoarthritis-runner/patient too.

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